Friday Finds #241 Best of March



Curious about the Boom Card “boom”? LOL Check out Melody Payne’s tutorial on using boom cards in online lessons.



Language Matters: What Languages Learners Need to Know About Ukrainian (Duolingo Blog)



Coffee Drinks from Around the World (Williams Sonoma)



Canva is such an amazing resource and one that I have come to use almost daily. Even when I think I know a program well, I find myself always learning something new from Katie Wardrobe at Midnight Music. Check out the podcast episode #134:10+ Canva features you probably didn’t know about.



Music Notation Software Recommendations for Teachers and Students (Color in my Piano)



“The Pianist” Movie – A True Story (Piano Street)



Recent recipe finds worth a try:

Baked Chicken Taquitos ( – My brother made this and even his (super picky) kids loved them, as did we!

Cuban Beef Picadilla (The Kitchn) – A fairly simple dish that can be served with rice or cauliflower rice on the side.



The Best Music Quotes for Piano Teachers (Creative Piano Teacher)



I just find this soooo touching and yes, it totally made me cry at the end!



An excellent article from Jane MacGrath on progressing students through what she calls “black hole literature.” An excellent pairing to this article is another article and free download from Janna Williamson on how to evaluate repertoire difficulty.



WordPress vs. Squarespace (Janna Carlson | Studio Rocket Web Design)



We’re all a little picky on the way we teach chords and scales. Maybe this new complete scales and complete chords book will be one that works well for you!


Webinar Appearance with Duet

Just a quick note here to let you know that I will be presenting a webinar, Connect and Engage: Online Professional Development Resources for the Independent Music Teacher on Wednesday, April 6th @ 10 am PT/1 pm ET.

This is a free webinar sponsored by Duet Partner.

Register here:…/tJwsc-yurD0uGtaAVX7pA9gWT7l4rygudbLe

In this webinar, we will explore the wealth of both professional development and teaching resources available to teachers as well as best practices for utilizing information without getting overwhelmed. Whether you’re a new or seasoned teacher, this will give you a wonderful snapshot into all that’s at your fingertips.

Piano Pantry: Celebrating 6 Years

This coming Sunday, March 20, 2022, marks six years since I hit publish on the first post here on Piano Pantry, Welcome to My Studio.

It’s been a fun creative outlet for me and a great way to connect with you. I enjoy creating new teaching resources and sharing ideas as quickly as life and physical ability allow.

As a big THANK YOU for being here, we’re celebrating with a discount in the SHOP!  In this post, I’ll share a few product and resource highlights from over the years followed by the discount code at the end of this post.

Here’s a fun little timeline/history of what has been brought to you over the past 6 years:

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First Free Resource

The first big resource I shared in Piano Pantry back in 2016 was Assignment Sheet Central which now houses more than 20 free assignment sheets.

This stemmed from a period of time when I went through what was called my “assignment sheet addiction“.


Newest Free Resource

The newest resource available to you is The Piano Pantry Podcast launched in January 2022 and now has 11 published episodes. Listen to the 1-minute trailer here

So far, the most downloaded episode is #2 Managing Your Podcast Consumption


Most Popular Post

Piano Safari Stuffed Animals Blog Post

Several years ago, I spent quite a bit of time hunting down little critters to accompany the technique exercise in Piano Safari. I shared my favorites in this post which remains the most popular on the site to date.



Most Popular Freebie Download

This Candy Car Contest download is insanely popular.

It’s a fun little studio-wide activity to use during holiday or group-class weeks. Kids go crazy over this little contest.




Newest Product in the Shop

Piano Lesson Warm-Up / Focus Activity

Doing a focus activity at the beginning of lessons has several wonderful benefits including helping students transition from their day and turn their mental and physical focus to the piano.

    1. As a bonus, this routine has a fun chant-like flow students easily follow and memorize.


Most Popular Products in the Shop

Not surprisingly, the most popular product in the shop is the teacher-licensed book Christmas By Ear: 8 Tunes to Harmonize.

The format encourages the development of audiation, improvisation, and creativity skills by presenting multi-level steps/variations on playing each tune. Each song includes its own checklist so students can use and build on these sheets year after year as their skills progress.

Once again, I’m not really surprised that the second most popular product is Happy Birthday By Ear.

This 11-page teaching guide is all you and your students will need to learn (and remember how to play) this tune.

Students are guided by learning the melody, harmony, and a variety of creative variations while fostering their audition of the piece.




Birthday Discount

As a big THANK YOU for being here, we’re celebrating with a discount in the SHOP! Since the blog launched in 2016, I’m giving 16% off your entire order through March 31, 2022.

Use the code BIRTHDAY16 at checkout.

Continue reading

Expressive Movement Videos for Preschool Lessons and Group Classes

Over the years, I’ve shared about an expressive movement resource I use off and on during preschool lessons and early elementary group classes from John Feierabend called Move It!: Expressive Movements with Classical Music for All Ages.

The series includes 20 dances set to Classical works from Brahms’s “Waltz in A-flat” to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The movements reflect both the form and expressive quality of the music. They’re really fun and my kids have always enjoyed them.

During Covid times, I found myself wanting to give a small assignment like this for my preschool kids to do at home. Unfortunately, the series I have is only available on DVD. So, I went searching for other options available online and quickly came across a large number of videos on YouTube.

These videos make for a fun and quick “focus activity” to use at the start of lessons or group classes for preschool or early to mid-elementary students.

You could also use them at the beginning of group lessons as you’re waiting for everyone to arrive for the class. Students can join in as they enter the studio.

Do it along to the video, or learn it yourself and have them follow you.

Continue reading

Piano Ensemble Repertoire

Do you include group classes in your studio in some way, shape, or form? Do you have at least two pianos? If so, then consider incorporating ensemble playing into this time!

Piano ensembles are a fun and easy way for students to experience collaborative playing and have been a staple activity in my group classes for years. I’ll share some great sources for piano ensemble music in today’s post.

(For holiday-specific ensemble music, check out the post: Christmas Collaborations: Recommended Piano Ensemble Music)

Before we dive in, one point of advice I wanted to mention is that I have always approached this as a sight-reading activity. I do not send music home prior to a group class for them to practice.

Music is chosen based on what I know students can easily sight-read. Since I am lucky to have four keyboards with headphones, they spend a few minutes playing through their part a couple of times then we unplug and play together.

Also, erring on the side of easier than I think they could play has proven to be a good rule of thumb for successful experiences. I’ll try to give you some specific examples throughout.

Interested in hearing more on how I run my group classes?
Listen in on Episode #3 of The Piano Pantry Podcast: Group Class Scheduling Experiences and Ideas


Hal Leonard Student Piano Library

My favorite over the years has been the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library Piano Ensemble Series.

Reasons I like this series:

  • They don’t require 4 pianos.
  • The spine is perforated so you can easily remove the parts from the book.
  • There is a teacher score.
  • While the difficulty levels are equal for each part, sometimes they will have 2 parts with one hand only and 2 parts with two hands so that’s a small way I can divide between students based on their sight-reading strength.
  • It includes suggestions for fun midi sounds – a different one for each keyboard. I don’t always use these but sometimes it can be a fun twist. Here’s a fun example (two of these teen students were beginners and two had been in lessons for a few years):

Things I don’t love about this series:

  • The kiddy artwork and song titles. While it’s not terrible, I often choose the piece based on how “un-kindergarten-like” it feels.


Buy it on Sheet Music Plus

Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 1
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 2
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 3
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 4
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 5


Alfred’s Basic Piano Library

Similar to Hal Leonard, Alfred has a piano ensemble series as part of their Basic Piano Library method.

Reasons I like this series:

  • Each book includes a lot of pieces – more than 4.
  • There are some pre-reading ensembles in 1A.
  • There is a teacher score.
  • It includes suggestions for fun midi sounds – a different one for each keyboard.
  • The pieces are written for 4 keyboards and every part is two-handed
  • Overall, the titles and artwork feel less “kiddie-like” than Hal Leonard’s so it can work better for older students.
  • There are 4 levels but you can opt to purchase two “complete” sets rather than 4 individual levels.

Things I don’t love about this series:

  • The music is harder. There isn’t a lot (even in book 1) that students who have been in lessons for even a couple of years would be able to sightread and play successfully almost immediately. Again, I think this is a good indication that this series might be better for students that play at the intermediate level.
  • The pages are not perforated like Hal Leonard’s (allowing you to purchase 1 book). You have to either tear the pieces of the spite to distribute or purchase 4 copies of the book.
  • The pages of each song are printed back-to-back so there’s no way to separate them out (like Hal Leonard’s) For example, part one is printed on the backside of the previous piece, parts two and three are printed on the same page back to back, and part four is on the front side of the next piece. That means that you either have to purchase multiple copies or tear the pages out of the book to distribute then (dare I say) photocopy one of the parts (the one that’s on the backside of part 2).


Buy on Sheet Music Plus

Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1A
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1B
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1 Complete
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 2
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 3
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 2 & 3 Complete



There are two other good locations that I currently know of for piano ensemble music online. I have not used either one extensively as I have the Hal Leonard or Alfred Ensembles but I like what I see and think they are a great option!

Please note that I am not being paid in any way to promote these products. I’m just letting you know what’s out there! 🙂

The first is Lauren Lewandowsi’s site: Piano with Lauren. She has 12 arrangements available.

Each piece includes:

  • A short summary about the song
  • Rhythm Practice
  • Individual parts for harmony (chords), bass notes, and melody
  • Advanced variations of each part
  • Each part is notated in its simplest form first and then as more advanced variations. The variations allow for a group of multi-leveled students to play together.


The newest one I’ve discovered is Miss Dorla’s Piano Pyramids.

Each piece includes:

  • 5 parts (at 5 different levels – a real gem!)
  • Conductor Score


Any More?

I hope this post has given you some great resources for gathering your students to make music together!

Do you have any favorites to add to the list? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for new resources for piano ensembles.

Please note all of these links are affiliate links which simply means I get a very small percentage back without it costing you extra as a way of helping me run this blog. Thanks!


Friday Finds #240 Best of February

With so much coming at us every single day my dear teacher friends, it has always been my goal that this series offers you a way to “weed through.”

Here’s some of the best of what I’ve come across in recent days both in piano-teacher world and life.

*Edit* I wrote this post a few days before Russian attacked Ukraine. Here is the best of what I’ve followed so far.

Ukraine, A Brief History (It Just Gets Stranger)

The Daily Podcast (The New York Times). Here’s the most recent episode: Ukrainians’ Choice: Fight or Flee?



Something we’re all wondering…

How Will Inflation Affect Your Lesson Rates in 2022 (Janna Carlson | Studio Rocket Web Design)



Slow Cooker Sausage and White Bean Soup (

Who doesn’t like a new and delicious slow cooker recipe? This one has a REALLY flavorful broth and is so easy!



The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill (Podcast)

At my February local book club meeting, a friend confided in the group that she had not been reading much because she had been engrossed in a podcast.

This podcast takes you inside the story of Mars Hill Church in Seattle – from its founding as part of one of the largest church planting movements in American history to its very public dissolution—and the aftermath that followed. 

Thanks to her recommendation, it’s totally had me in its grip this past month. I’m not finished yet, but I’m 70% through and completely in shock at this true story. I think you’ll get addicted as well!



Our Favorite Piano Teaching Websites (Creative Piano Teacher)



A review of the app “PlayScore 2” (Jennifer Foxx | Music Educator Resources)

It’s pretty slick! You can take any score you own, scan it and it will immediately start playing.



The Daily Examen (Emily P Freeman | The Next Right Thing Podcast)



How to Seek out Different Music (Podcast episode)

Most of us teach, perform and listen to Classical music. Many of us also teach pop songs or jazz. But do you ever break outside of these walls? And if you want to teach different types of music, how do you find it?

That’s the question Nicola answers in this episode of the Vibrant Music Teaching Podcast – one of my favorite of her most recent episodes!



What’s the Difference Between East Coast and West Coat Butter?

Don’t worry – even I had no idea there was a difference!



Interested in self-publishing and selling your sheet music? I just recently heard about, owned and operated by Hal Leonard.

This site allows people to sell their arrangements of popular songs, public domain works, and original compositions through the world’s most popular sheet music retailers. Cool!



Bulgarian Cheese, Feta and Egg Toast (The Modern Noona)

Such an easy and delicious recipe to make for lunch!!!



My 15 Biggest Piano Teaching Mistakes (Podcast episode)

In his first solo episode, Ben Kapilow lists 15 piano teaching mistakes he made earlier in his teaching career, which he was inspired to correct as a result of interviewing various piano teaching experts for the last 50+ episodes of the podcast.

Ben has had a brilliant group of guests on his podcast. If you haven’t listened yet, definitely subscribe!



Any Le Creuset fans out there? Well, I’m more of a dreamer. LOL. They have a big sale going on through March 14. Check out!


13 – a new website from Jonathan Roberts.



Tips for Teaching Scales (Chrissy Ricker)


Listening Playlists to Accompany Music-Themed Children’s Books

Recently, I shared a couple of blog posts related to building a lending library in your studio of music-themed children’s books and comics.

After purchasing a few more books from some of your recommendations, I noticed I had quite a few books that had suggested listening lists in the back of the book. Thus was born the idea to create listening playlists to accompany some of these books!

I’ve been using Spotify for years to create playlists of my own. It’s a wonderful place to create public playlists anyone can listen to.

In this post, I will share brief synopses of each of these 9 books as well as the direct link to each playlist.

For quick access to them all in one location, simply click on the link to my public playlists.

As a bonus, as a way of sharing these playlists with your students, I’ve created a free printable of bookmarks you can print on heavy paper or cardstock and stick inside each book when it’s checked out.

This will be an easy way to give parents the link to listen to these playlists at home when reading these books with their children.

Continue reading

Piano Lesson Warm-Up / Focus Activity

What kinds of activities do you do to help your students get focused at the beginning of a lesson?

I saw this question recently in a Facebook group post and realized it was time to share an activity started doing this year.

After attending a workshop by Melody Bober a couple of years ago, I was inspired to come up with a little warm-up routine to use at the start of each student’s lesson.

Not long after that, I was listening to an episode of the All Keyed Up Podcast where he was interviewing Marvin Blickenstaff. At one point, Marvin called warm-ups at the beginning of a lesson a way of “stimulating circulation.” I loved that phrase and it was another element that convinced me to come up with a fun little routine of my own.

The benefits of including something like this in your lesson are:

  1. It helps students take a moment to transition from their day into the lesson time.
  2. It helps students loosen up a bit and serves as a reminder of the elements of good posture and technique such as arms approximately at tabletop level, forearm rotation, relaxed shoulders,  natural hand position, etc.

The routine I designed is now available in my shop. Here’s a look!


Piano Lesson Warm-Up / Focus Activity

While this was developed with piano students in mind, it could be used with music students of any instrument!

Some of my specific goals in developing this routine were:

  1. Be something students of any age would feel comfortable doing (delivery and vocal tone have a lot to do with this. 🙂 )
  2. Be easy to remember and take less than 1:00 to complete.
  3. Be something that can be done sitting or standing.
  4. Include movements for as many parts of the body used in playing piano as possible including head, back, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers.

As a bonus, the words flow in a somewhat chant-like manner. The first two  of the seven-line chant are:

Look to the left and right;
Tilt your head side to side.

Gentle twist, from the waist;
Body circles, that’s the way.

Here is a 0:15 snippet of the 0:50 routine.


Final Tips and How to Purchase

A couple of final things to keep in mind when incorporating a routine like this:

  1. Yes, it’s good to be consistent, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t do it every week. Sometimes students plow into their lesson and are so focused on being ready to play one particular piece, we just dive right into that.
  2. Don’t force it. If you sense a student doesn’t like it or that it doesn’t work well for them, then don’t do it. Don’t feel like it has to be used with every student even though it was written in a way that all ages could be comfortable.

This product includes a PDF printable of the full warm-up chant as well as the full video displaying the motions.

Add it to your shopping cart now or from the Piano Pantry shop.


Do you have any favorite warm-up/focus activities you use in your studio? Share in the comments!


Friday Finds #239 Best of January

Welcome to the first Friday Finds of 2022! It’s been a busy January with the startup of The Piano Pantry Podcast. I hope you’ve had a chance to catch at least one episode if not all four.

As life moves forward, things change and evolve including what I’m doing here on Piano Pantry. If you’ve been around here awhile, you may have noticed that this weekly series has become a little more sporadic.

My beloved Friday Finds series has and will continue to remain, but may be more dependent on what life allows from week to week and month to month. At a minimum, you will always see an end-of-month “best of” publication.

So, thanks for sticking around for this series my friends, a Piano Pantry staple and reader favorite since 2016!



I discovered the most DELICIOUS soup recipe this past weekend Pulled Pork Chili Verde (The Kitchn).

I added 1 c. fire-roasted corn (from Trader Joe’s) as well as additional liquid – the liquid that came out of the instant pot from cooking the pork shoulder. No additional salt was needed at the end due to the addition of that liquid.

Soooooo good!!!!!



In Praise of Slowness (



As you’re building your list of books to read in 2022, consider some suggestions from Chris Foley of Books Read in 2021



Piano Studio Business Claims: Things that spark joy can be claimed at tax time (Rebekah Maxner)



How I organize all my receipts for tax time: Get Organized!: Bills, Expenses, and Receipts (Piano Pantry)



12 Podcasts for Piano Teachers to Follow in 2022 (Joy Morin | Color in My Piano)



Podcast episode: The Life and Legacy of Sidney Poitier (The Daily)

Podcast episode: How Disgust Explains Everything (The Daily)



97-year-old pianist, and last surviving pupil of Rachmaninov, signs landmark record deal (Classic FM)



How to Teach Form and Memorization to Beginning Piano Students (Natalie Weber | Music Matters Blog)



Baking Bread as an Act of Hope (The Rabbit Room)



While we’re on the topic of bread, recently I discovered a wonderful store-bought pita at our Walmart – Joseph’s Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Pita. It’s low in calories (60 apiece), soft, light-weight, and a good source of protein.



A few more favorite bread recipes:

Everything Bagel Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese – so easy and so good! (Just a Taste)

High Protein Bread (Oat Sandwich Rolls) (Skinny Taste)

The Easiest Bread Recipe You’ll Ever Bake (Williams Sonoma)



Seth Godin on piano tuning…kind of, LOL. Do You Have a Tuner?



Best Kitchen Towels: Zeppoli Kitchen Towles (The Kitchen)



What Makes a Great Intermediate Piano Teacher (Janna Williamson)



Cooking Demonstration at Piano Connect 2022

Hello! Just a quick announcement to let you know that I giving a cooking demonstration for the 2022 Piano Connect Virtual Conference.

I’m honored to be stepping in at the last minute, filling in for The Hungry Musician who normally works with Paula Dreyer on the food side of this virtual conference.

Hope to see some of you there as we make fluffy omelets together this Saturday, January, 29 @ 11:00 am PST.

If you’re interested in registering for the conference, you can do so here:

Register for Piano Connect